Americans love to break down their foods into various groups, even though each time they do, someone seems to have a different opinion about what that breakdown should look like.
However, the most worrying aspect when it comes to what we put in our stomachs is that there’s an entire food category that has kept under the radar, in spite of making up more than half of everything we eat.
Instead of following the traditional breakdown that we’re already used to – fruits, vegetables, proteins, and so on – a new study published in BMJ today focused only on one question: Processed or not?
As it turns out, 57.9 percent of all the calories consumed in America come from food that’s been processed one way or another.
According to the authors, processed foods are those which “include substances not used in culinary preparations, in particular additives used to imitate sensorial qualities of minimally processed foods and their culinary preparations.”
Besides making readers want to go and buy some tasty potato chips, that definition also covers so many bases that some won’t even care what it means. That might be because of how wide-ranging the examples are.
Some of the foods we eat the most have made it on the list: pizza and breakfast cereals; breads; cookies and pies; frozen and shelf-stable plates; soft drinks, fruit drinks and milk-based beverages; and cakes, salty snacks.
It might sound absurd to put all these food items together, but the justification becomes a little clearer when we look at the source of the calories in different groups.
Fruit, meat, and milk were the heavy-hitters when it comes to providing calories in unprocessed or minimally processed foods. Most calories in the processed category were caused by added sugar and oil.
So how is this information relevant to us? Processed foods are not only the source of half of all calories, but they are also responsible for almost all the sugar consumed by Americans. Researchers found that only the bottom 20 percent of people eating processed food were under the recommended limits.
FDA suggested last fall that nutritional labels should require an add-on with each serving’s daily value of sugar in percentage. This would help us know at the end of the day how much sugar we’re actually eating.
But even if that recommendation doesn’t become real, this study should be a reminder of how much processed food we eat; it’s time we took that seriously.
Image Source: Patti Knows